Nothing to See
When I capture a picture on my camera, it helps me focus on that moment. I want to save it, savor it. But sometimes, it’s the moment itself that brings me into focus. This story is about the latter…
It was a rough night. I was up late, mind-full, then little people needed me, and finally an early morning text… ‘Call when you get this.’ Then the real whirlwind began. A last minute overnight baby sitter was found. Cheap airline tickets were bought. One tiny backpack was packed with a camera that took up a third of the bag. $20 was left on the counter for the sitter to go to In&Out. And then down the road to LAX I went.
When I arrived at my sister’s house, early labor had begun. We pretended to watch Tom Cruise from the 90’s, while she sorted papers and folded laundry and then suggested we clean the garage… at 11 p.m. All this nesting makes sense, she knows the chaos that will occur when she brings home her third and maybe, just maybe, a little organization will help to bring control, but we gently say ‘No’ and we squeeze her into her seat belt one more time.
Then to the hospital we go.
There are waves of pain. And tears. We oscillate between trying to distract ourselves with The Chainsmokers & Coldplay, and submitting to what the body is meant to do naturally, with classic spa music. There’s moving and constant new positions. There’s so many pokes… so many pokes… to give fluids and meds, and even more to test blood for cord donation. There’s sadness and our doctor goes home. We are all anticipating great things and also grieving expectations that are not met. There’s fear and tough choices and so much waiting… waiting.
There’s kindness and grace… A marriage under pressure showing its true foundation.
And there’s whoosh, whoosh, whoosh as our constant companion… a steady heartbeat of a healthy baby, a luxury we didn’t have five years ago, so we are calmer and more grateful than expected.
Then, like most things, a transition comes. After 19 hours, the water breaks and everything moves so fast. The next hour, the most physically painful of her life. We pray and rub and whisper encouragement and the dark quiet room gets a spot light and doubles the number people in this tiny space. It’s fast. It’s loud. And then she’s here.
I look down towards my left. My sister has her baby on her chest. Her arms are too weak to hold her, so my hands keep the baby in place. I wish I had my camera. I know how exhausted she is, but these first minutes of life our gorgeous. In a few moments, I’ll step away… step back. I’ll resume my usual family role of photographer and give space to these new parents with their baby. But before that… I turned to my right.
(My sister and I have a long standing joke, from her first delivery that I saw ‘nothing.’ Obviously, it’s not possible to hold a leg, and not see, but we keep up the rouse, because, again, obviously, no one wants their most intimate spots on display, having gone through great trauma, physical or otherwise.)
But when I look to my right, where there is ‘nothing to see,’ I see raw beauty. Here, as my sister has her baby on her chest, the umbilical cord coming from insider of her, a creamy twisted dark blue and creamy rope is stretched out, and the doctor, with her long needle is removing cord blood. Precious life-giving, life-altering cord blood is being donated.
After all the pain, and the mess, before one more push, before she can be cleaned up, before she can be sewed up, before the healing process can begin, there is a pause. And she must wait one more time. She is waiting because she chooses to give, in her worst hour, to others.
And it clicks for me. My brain can’t help but capture this moment. Here I see so much of motherhood.
On my left, my niece nestled on her mama, I’m reminded of who my sister was in the last 24 hours. Vulnerable. Kind. Determined. Sacrificial. Exhausted. Consistent. Devoted. Resilient. All of this for the best of her baby.
And on my right, the mess and the blessing are mixed together, as my sister gives again. Not for herself. Not for her small ones. No, she is giving for others. And I see the very best of motherhood, which not only works for goodness for our own children, but for all the children. This love takes my breath away. This love echoes Jesus’ own life-giving love for us.
And even though we declare ‘there’s nothing to see here.’ I know I will never forget.
I wish we didn’t hide so much of our raw selves. There’s more goodness in our unpolished spaces than we realize. Perhaps my finest parenting moments are also where I insist we pretend they didn’t exist… my patience in her screaming, my firm demands for him, my yet again for the thousandth time in all the exhaustion. The best of mothering does not fit on a resume or in a job interview. Perhaps our answer really is true… ‘My biggest flaw is being a perfectionist.’ And it’s holding us all back.
Let’s embrace our unpolished selves. Let’s find beauty there. Let’s not wish away the cotton swab, that covers the poke, that bares witness to the cord blood she gave. That’s something to see.
Happy Early Mother’s Day to my sister who let me tell her story, and to all of us who join the village, raising together the next generation.
Welcome to the family, Esther Abigail English!
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Tagged: birth, mother's day